Creative burnout

How to Avoid Creative Burnout

A ‘burnout’ isn’t just a scary word, it’s a real psychological condition and you can be sucked into it without even knowing. Burnout happens when you work too hard and when you’re under a lot of stress. Symptoms of a burnout are pretty straightforward. You may be staring at a blank page for ages and be unable to write a single word. It physically hurts to even open a text editor. You’re out of ideas, your creativity took a vacation, and you feel completely out of energy.

I have suffered from burnout. It got me to the point where I quit my job because I felt miserable and drained. I was unable to write anything or to work for quite some time. I can say that I am a bit of a workaholic, it makes me happy to feel useful and to create new things. Yet, the days became months and my burnout changed into anxiety and fear. I began doubting my capabilities. A burnout can lead to clinical depression, which is a pretty serious condition.

Prevention is the best medicine

The easiest way to overcome burnout is to avoid it in the first place. Of course, I’m not saying that you should try to avoid it by lying to yourself and pretending that nothing’s wrong. What you really need to do is to make small changes in your lifestyle.

Start saying no!

You shouldn’t be a people pleaser and you should know your limits. A lot of freelancers, employees, entrepreneurs, and even CEOs overestimate their limits. They want to prove that they are really capable and that they can do anything, sometimes taking on too much work. Set a limit of hours you will work per week and say “no” to new projects if you don’t have the time and resources anymore. Evaluate new jobs and only take on what you can handle.

Take breaks and plan time to relax

Sleeping for only a few hours became some sort of badge of honor lately. Many people seem to think that working over the weekends and during the night means that they’re proving their dedication, mastery, and seriousness about their work or business. The truth is that by doing this, you’re doing the exact opposite of what you want. If you don’t sleep enough you’re unable to make the right decisions. Your decisions are actually similar to a person who’s under the influence of alcohol.

If you want to perform better, boost your productivity, and avoid burnout you should sleep as much as you really need, take breaks during the day to recharge your batteries, and plan your free time. You know, when you’re on your deathbed, you won’t be thinking that you could have worked more.

Think about your health

Physical and psychological health walk hand in hand. Everyday healthy choices can significantly change your condition and boost your productivity. Instead of driving to the store, take a walk. Instead of having a chocolate bar as a snack, eat a banana. At the beginning, the changes should only be really small. When you master the small ones, you can move on to something else.

How do you know if you suffer from burnout?

Burnout can show itself in different ways. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you might be experiencing it right now.

  • Do you have a problem waking up, it’s hard for you to go to work and once you’re there you just can’t make yourself start? In case you’re a professional writer, it can just be that blank page I mentioned in the intro of this article. You just can’t get yourself to work and create.
  • Have you become very critical of your company, bosses, clients, job, colleagues or employees? Are you blaming them for your current state?
  • Are you irritated by the people you work with?
  • Do you suffer from sudden headaches or other pains in your body?
  • Do you find solutions to your problems in alcohol, drugs, food, etc.?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?

What to do if you already have a burnout?

The most effective way you can do something about it is to find a professional. A medical expert, psychologist or at least a life coach. As mentioned before, a burnout can really lead to depression and even if it doesn’t, you might suffer from other conditions that will cause a lot of trouble in your life. In this exhausted state of mind, I burned a lot of bridges and I’m honestly very sorry for that.

If you want to practice some “self-help”, try to work on your resilience. But first, take a break. Then slowly change your life, little by little.

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Barbora is a writer, marketer, healthy food lover and passionate traveller. She is interested in everything from human rights, ecology, healthy lifestyle to business and startups.